By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian, with Jarlin Espinal, Technical Services Assistant
This is part of an intermittent series of blogs featuring advertisements from medical journals. You can find the entire series here.
Advertisements in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), have reflected food and diet trends from the start.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the journal normally had two pages of ads an issue, often related to food. By the late 1940s, advertising exploded. The May 3, 1947 issue of JAMA has 130 pages of ads, with food-related items amidst the publishers, medical devices, cigarettes, cosmetics, sanitariums, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals.
The advertising boom only increased—“In 1958 the industry estimated that it had turned out 3,790,809,000 pages of paid advertising in medical journals.”1 By this time, ads for pharmaceuticals far surpassed those for food- and diet-related items, a fitting trend as “between 1939 and 1959, drug sales rose from $300 million to $2.3 billion”1
The food- and diet-related advertisements presented here fall into several categories. There are promotions from industry groups—including my favorite, in which the National Confectioners’ Association attempts to convince doctors that candy has health benefits. There are beverages, ranging from baby formula to ovaltine to soft drinks. There are items that remain familiar today and items that seem totally foreign—if someone out there has tried Embo, please let us know. And of course, there’s the intersection of pharmaceuticals and diet, as claims of appetite suppression move from ads for apples and citrus to drugs like Desoxyn.
1. Donohue J. A history of drug advertising: the evolving roles of consumers and consumer protection. Milbank Q. 2006;84(4):659–699. Available at: http://facultynh.syr.edu/bjsheeha/ADV 604/History of Drug.pdf. Accessed May 30, 2014.